I had this next entry scheduled and then all this happened so I debated whether I should postpone or even cancel this post. But then I decided that the many should not be punished for the idiotic actions of the few… well a few hundred… but still…

With this next one, in which the producer Adrian Sherwood was involved, the project looks at football at the time and everything surrounding it – including the trouble on the terraces and outside the grounds:

Barmy Army - The English Disease

I’ll pull some quotes from kiwimick who posted this commentary on Rate Your Music and gives an excellent summary on the whole thing:

…The Barmy Army are effectively the loose collective otherwise known as Tackhead and friends, and here they combine a couple of their shared passions – sampling and football – to create a body work unlike anything else heard before or since. It won’t appeal to all, but it does have some curiosity value, and will be well worth a listen for anyone who has previously enjoyed Tackhead, Little Axe, Dub Syndicate, Mark Stewart, or indeed fans of experimental dub or eclectic lightweight cut-and-paste style Hip-Hop.

When this was initially released circa 1989 in the immediate aftermath of the Heysel/Bradford/Hillsborough tragedies, English football was at its lowest ebb for several generations, and the game was awash with violent so called “fans”… …Attendances were low, safety concerns high, and the family-friendly all-seater environment we see today was still some way off in the future…

Instead of using samples some lines from any songs, they used the chants/songs sung by the crowds at some football matches. Most notably was recordings from West Ham and Celtic games, which I’ll mention more about below.

– Actually I’ll add another quote from the excellent and very detailed site On-U Sound In The Area which is an unofficial tribute to the On-U Sound record label.

From the Barmy Army biography and this is a snippet of an introduction to the album done by Steve Barker:

On-U Sound In the Area “Recorded at a time of social paranoia when the Thatcher years were drawing to a close, football was under unprecedented scrutiny. Identity cards, the destruction of the traditional terrace, hooliganism (“the English disease”), policing standards, a return to family values – the game was becoming, to coin a phrase, a political football! Sherwood resisted the obvious temptation of an easy shot by turning out a strictly Hammers polemic but focused instead on producing a passionately political sonic documentary where supporters from across the football spectrum joined together in a joyful celebration of the game whilst levelling a number of incisive jibes against the game’s establishment, both at club and organisational levels.”

So to the songs then and I’m going to post some selected tracks from the album and add some short notes (taken from the Barmy Army biography page) beneath each one with a bit of background:

Starting with the tracks which were released on a 12″ single *

* I don’t have the full 12 inch version – this is the 4 min one
» Barmy Army – Sharp As A Needle

» Sharp As A Needle dub

» England 2 Yugoslavia 0


  • “Abide With Me” was probably taken from the 1989 FA Cup Final.
  • “You’ll Never Walk Alone” sample is from Celtic’s Parkhead, when Liverpool played their first match after Hillsborough in April 1989.
  • The man on the keyboards was Ministry’s Al Jourgensen
  • That’s Kenny Daglish on the cover of the single – you can find more images here.

One about Alan Devonshire, who was a West Ham legend:

» Barmy Army – Devo


Another of the album’s rhythms was actually used by Mark Stewart when “Devo” surfaced as “These Things Happen” on the artist’s Mute album Metatron (ON-U LP51) :
» Mark Stewart – These Things Happen

Because of the increase in trouble around the grounds, the Tories were trying to introduce a compulsory national ID card specifically aimed at the time at football fans. Neil Kinnock and the Labour party were against it, (column 150) but hey – 20 years later – guess what.

» Barmy Army – Civil Liberty

Finally to cap this off – I may post some more in the future, but for now here’s a couple of traditional terrace songs dubbed up by Sherwood/Clail/Tackhead and co:

» Barmy Army – Blue Moon
» Barmy Army – Que Sera Sera

One Reply to “The English Disease”

  1. Are we not men? We are Devo!

    Of course,there is an argument that the clubcard scheme favoured by so many club’s ticketing mechanisms is a de facto ID card.

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